Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Home Photo Anti-Studio

Back in November JCPenney was doing free family portraits, so we went in, hoping we would get a family picture in the style of a recent JCP catalog: colorful, minimalist, quirky. We were led to believe they would look something like this:

Instead they put us in front of an old brown sponge-painted background and we got pictures that looked like they were taken at Olan Mills in 1989. The photographer put us in unnatural poses and took one single picture in each pose, so of course we didn't get one in which we all look good. Our best option was one in which Celia is kind of smiling but not looking at the camera, Sabrina is looking at the camera but not smiling, and Marel and I both look a little dorky.

So we took our free 8x10 and bought a couple 5x7s of solo shots of the girls to give to their grandparents and went home disillusioned. Why is the photo studio model so antiquated? Why can they only take 20 pictures of us? We know from experience that when taking pictures of our kids we need to take one or two hundred to get 5 or 6 good ones. It made sense when they shot on film, when every picture they took cost a measurable, non-negligable amount. But nowadays, unless I'm missing something, each picture they take only costs the amount of electricity it takes to light the flash and move a couple megabytes through a wire to the computer. Prints can still cost an arm and leg, I have no real problem with that, but why can't they take more pictures to give us more to choose from, and increase the odds of getting a good one? In a day when amateurs like ourselves have a camera that can take 6 shots per second and holds 2,600 photos at 15 megapixels there's no reason we need to play the odds at getting one good shot out of only 20 photos.

I looked online and found that on Amazon one can purchase lights and a backdrop for around the cost of one or two photo packages at a studio. Rather than going to a studio every year or two, where the kids are a little weirded out by the photographer putting them in unusual positions and trying to make them smile, I figured we could do it at home whenever we want. If we don't get any good pictures one day, oh well, we can try again next week. It was genius.

Marel talked me out of it, but then told our parents that I wanted it for Christmas. So lately we've been testing it out by photographing the babies of friends of ours who have been born in recent weeks and months. Here we are on our first try with cousin Hazel.

Of course after seeing us take so many pictures of the babies, Celia and Sabrina want to get in on the action as well. We haven't done a planned photo shoot with them yet, but they have jumped in front of the camera when we've had it set up for the babies. Even when they're just messing around we've taken some pretty decent shots of them.

Also, for my birthday my parents got me a new lens. It adds noticeable clarity to the photos, as opposed to the two above taken with the basic kit lens.

By the way, they choose their own clothes. We don't dress them up like this.

So far we're pleased with the results, though we have yet to find out whether we can get good shots of the girls when they're dressed up and we're actually trying.

In addition to our home studio setup, now that the girls have a cousin nearby, we've taken to recreating old family pictures. Here is an old photo of young Taylor holding baby Marel, which we recreated with young Sabrina holding baby Hazel.

Saturday, February 16, 2013


Part of my calling as Secretary in the Stake YW is visiting (and often speaking in) the branches in our stake.  We have the Dutch Harbor branch (which is located way out on the Aleutians).  They have their own building, but we just call in from Anchorage and speak to them over the phone.  Then there's the Bush Branch which covers all Church members in tiny villages in the Western half of Alaska.  All Church members call into Church from their homes.  In Anchorage, we go to the Bush Branch office and speak on the telecom with the Bush Branch president (who also happens to be our dentist).  Everyone in the office has to mouth the hymns so the Bush Branch members can hear the recorded hymns over the telecom, but not us singing.  Then there's Girdwood, which is just 45 minutes south of Anchorage.  High School students are actually brought into Anchorage for high school and are in the same high school boundaries as my children would be in.  The Girdwood branch is small and they share a building with the Catholics.  There's actually a couple from Anchorage in the branch.  The husband is Catholic and the wife is Mormon and the only way they could agree to go to Church together was to attend a Mormon meeting in a Catholic building.  The building gorgeous. It's just perched right there in the midst of all the mountains.  The view from Sacrament meeting is fabulous.  And every 20 minutes or so, there is a Church-shaking BOOM from the cannons being shot for avalanche control.  They are called "Howitzer cannons" but are referred to merely as "Howitzers."  I loved attending the Girdwood branch.  The Church in Alaska is awesome.  

Friday, February 15, 2013

Updates: Sabrina (with a bit of Celia)

Sabrina is hilarious and getting so big and old.  We haven't started potty training her yet.  But she has decided to do it all herself.  She demanded she wear panties about a week ago.  With very few accidents, she was doing pretty well, but I was getting pretty tired of poop in panties, so I moved her to pull-ups (which I'm sort of opposed to for potty training).  I told her that if she got the poop out in the potty, she could start wearing her Elmo panties again.  So today, she got the poop out in the potty three times.  She's got drive, that's for sure.  So we're close.

In other Sabrina updates, she's really funny as she always has been.  But whereas Celia has always been witty (even at 2), Sabrina is silly.  She's got goofy comedic timing and can come up with hilarious thing to say.  She doesn't play on words like Celia always has, but just has good timing.  Today, we were looking at a picture book of Celia when she was Sabrina's age.  And she was pointing at all the clothes (which now fit Sabrina) and she said: "This was Celia's.  And now I wear it.  And this one.  And this one.  And this one.  And your Zumba clothes."  Not her funniest example, but what I could come up with from today.

Sabrina is also our drama queen.  Anytime something doesn't go exactly accord to plan, she collapses on the floor.  She used to be a big kicking screaming tantrum thrower, but now she just collapses.  It's funny.  And her arguments to everything are either "But I want to" Or "But I don't!"  Sabrina, it's time to come eat dinner. [Collapses]  "But I don't!"  She's easily distracted, however (unlike Celia), and it's usually pretty easy to snap her out of it.

Both girls are awesome.  They play so well together.  They still talk and sing to eachother through the wall at nighttime.  And when we kneel down for family prayers before bed, both try to come up with the most elaborate place to kneel down (halfway up the ladder to Celia's bed, on top of the lego box, etc.).  They are both at a really great age and things have gotten really fun around here.

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